In the last 8-10 years, permanent hair straightening has fallen out of favor.¬† Natural hair has been “hot” and various revenue streams have opened as a consequence.¬† However, time and fashion is constantly changing, and once again, hairstylists are gettings calls for permanent straighteners albeit with less chemicals.¬† ¬†Keratin Straightening is helping but I feel the changes in the formula caused a shift in its popularity as it shortened the staying time for people with coarser hair.

While clients are hesitant to return, some say they have reached a crossroads with natural hair and are asking for more conditioning straighteners and manufacturers are listening.

After having the hair permanently straightened with a relaxer or other other chemical product, clients have to be informed of what they will have to do at home.  Ideally, what they would have to do at home  should have been discussed during the consultation.  Whether the client is new to the product  or continuing, how to care for the hair at home is always  good in case they have some destructive practices.  Many will sometimes reveal these to you just through impromptu discussions, so it is always a good idea to listen carefully.

Types of Permanent Straightening

Permanent straightening changes the natural structure of the hair.  They come in three main types:

  • Thio Straighteners:¬†¬†¬†is gentler on the hair than a sodium hydroxide or no lye-based relaxer.¬†For thio-based straighteners, I find the hair does not do well with heat, so using curling or flat irons, leaves the hair very dry
  • No lye Straighteners:¬† ¬†is gentle on the hair and is kinder on the scalp than lye based relaxers.¬† Although, with continuous use of no-lye straighteners,¬†I have found that over time the hair became rough to the touch and takes on an orange cast.¬† Most clients will complain that the hair looks “red” and the dryness persists even when it is conditioned.
  • Sodium Hydroxide Straighteners :¬† Of the three, the sodium hydroxide is the most powerful.¬† If used correctly, it should not “burn” and the hair should be trimmed with each application..¬† ¬†Hair that lies lifeless has been overprocessed and will probably break off at the regrowth if the client is not religiously conditioning.¬† ¬†Even then, over time the hair will be damaged.

When the client is taking care of their hair at home, they need to do the following:

  • sleep with a silk scarf
  • Put a natural oil to retain moisture.¬† Hair oils should be used in moderation and vaseline is not to be used for the scalp.
  • flat irons or curling irons are not to be used to curl the hair after the first day.¬† The reason for this being the spray left on the hair will collect on the iron and stick and cause breakage.
  • hair is to be washed no more than once a week;¬† if you must then co-washing is very popular and involves just rinsing the hair well and using a conditioner only.
  • always use a styling gel, styling lotion or straightening lotion when blow drying or setting the hair.¬† Most clients forget this key step and the hair suffers as a result.
  • Wrapping the hair before sleeping is an option to straightening every morning.¬† There are many Youtube tutorials If you wish to see what this involves, just watch someone with hair similar to yours.
  • Deep conditioning is required either every week or two, no exceptions if you want to keep your hair.
  • Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamin e, iron and protein will help you keep your hair forever.
  • Have a retouch every 6 weeks to 2 months; if the retouch is not done on time, deep treatments to maintain moisture.

There will be people who will judge those who  return to permanent straightening, but as a hairstylist, I see the pain many experience from thick, coarse hair.  You are not in a position to judge until you have had a month in their shoes.  The only ones that I do not agree with are those who use it on kids.  Kids should be allowed to have their hair until age 16  where they can make the decision. If the child needs lighter hair, get a comb pressing done or use a brush straightener.   It will not be permanent but you will have all the benefits.

by Paula Barker, Silkie Locks Hair Design (

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